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Fans support Nikki Haley in her campaign for reelection in her home state of South Carolina

Fans support Nikki Haley in her campaign for reelection in her home state of South Carolina

Among Donald Trump's Republican rivals, only Nikki Haley remains. She hopes to win the South Carolina primary on Saturday. She is lagging in the polls, but she points out with youthful enthusiasm that America is not looking for a fight between two people over the age of 70.

Maral Naushad Sharifi

Nikki Haley (52 years old) walks on stage wearing baggy pants and a jacket. She hasn't said a word yet, nor has she waved to anyone, but the room is already celebrating. Hundreds of Nikki Haley's supporters chanted in the town of Greer, South Carolina, USA, chanting and waving Nikki Haley's flags as if their lives depended on it. They carry her name on buttons, stickers and bracelets.

“When I started this adventure a year ago, there were fourteen people in the race,” the presidential candidate begins. “You've already defeated twelve men, and there's only one more left!” The room goes wild.

Hailey has really come a long way already. She began her candidacy as an underdog and her chances seemed slim, but now she is the last remaining opposition to Donald Trump. In Iowa, it received 19% of the vote, and in New Hampshire last month, it obtained 43%. The Republican primary elections in South Carolina are scheduled to be held on Saturday. This is where she has to do it.

South Carolina, located on the southeastern coast of the United States, is its home state. She was born there and was governor there for six years. Everyone knows her name. However, Haley is still far behind Donald Trump. According to recent opinion polls, he can count on 65 percent of the votes on Saturday, compared to 35 percent.

At Jarir, visitors don't understand this at all. “It's very good!” It appears here. “She was a wonderful ruler!” “She meant a lot to South Carolina!” Voter Melissa Gaines with her daughter in the audience: “Trump has no sense of morality. Nikki Haley has integrity.”

And in a furious final race across her state, Haley is once again doing everything she can to convince more voters of this. “It's a great evening in South Carolina!” she shouts from the stage. She must try to maintain this enthusiasm among the audience. It's now or never for Nikki Haley.

Indian sounds

“I went to school with Nicky,” Kyle Jones, 51, says outside Little Howie's snack bar in Bamberg Village. Here Haley grew up, in this abandoned rural village, after her parents immigrated from the Indian state of Punjab. Haley's father worked here as a biology teacher. Jones says she was having difficulty in school. “Jokes were made about her all the time.”

Jones remembers when little Nikki was bullied because she was brown. On Thanksgiving she was to play Pocahontas in the school musical. Classmates danced around her and made Indian sounds. They were the only Indian family in the village. “I'm proud of how Nikki stood up to Trump,” Jones says. “She's obviously used to bullies.” Then he got into his pickup truck, carrying the bags of fallen chicken, and drove away.

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Last week, Healy returned to Bamberg for a while. She had come to see the devastation caused by a hurricane in January. The village street with green, blue and red houses was closed due to the risk of collapse. Walls collapsed, windows were shattered, and traffic poles were shattered. Little Howie's snack bar, where you can smell the fried fat, temporarily serves as the center of the village. Daria Bester, 69, who voted for Trump twice, says she will vote for Haley on Saturday, while waiting for her food. “There's a lot of drama surrounding this guy,” she says. “If you see Hailey walking around here, he's not arrogant at all.”

Fans of Nikki Haley in Clemson, South Carolina, where she was beloved during her years as governor.Image by Alison Joyce/Getty Images

The people of Bamberger describe themselves as “simple country folk.” And they say Haley, who you can hug or shake hands after her speech without having to go through a metal detector first, is one of them. However, her life was different from most people here.

Hillary Clinton

In Clemson, a few hours' drive from Bamberg, Nimarata “Nikki” Randhawa graduated as an accountant. In 2004, she won a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives, where she served three terms. “The reason I got into politics was because of Hillary Clinton,” Haley says in interviews. Clinton's message was that women who are told that politics is not for them should follow that path.

In 2010, Haley was elected governor of South Carolina, the first person who was not a white man. It makes a splash quickly. She is able to reduce her state's high unemployment rates by attracting businesses to South Carolina. Residents say their involvement is also notable after a number of natural disasters, such as the catastrophic floods in 2015.

That year, she also made national news when she decided to remove the controversial Confederate flag from the plaza in front of the Capitol in Columbia, DC. Two years later, Donald Trump asked her to become UN ambassador, a position she left in 2018 without disagreeing. It is now the only obstacle that could prevent Trump from running for the Republican nomination.

Democratic funders

In recent months, one candidate after another has dropped out of the Republican presidential race: former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Even if Nikki Haley loses in South Carolina on Saturday, she says she will stay in the race.

The left is so afraid of the prospect of another four years of Trump that Democratic donors are pouring donations to him en masse. Thousands of donors who supported Joe Biden in 2020 have now donated money to Haley's campaign, with about 1,600 of them giving more than half a million dollars. They keep the candidate going, no matter how slim her chances are. Last month alone, Healy raised $16.5 million (15.2 million euros). It also has the support of Wall Street. She received $4 million from the wealthy Koch brothers.

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Before the primary, 3 million South Carolinians eligible to vote across the board are encouraged to choose the former governor over the former president. The local newspaper wrote: “Vote for Haley to protect American democracy.” Charleston City Paper this week. “The Founding Fathers would be turning in their graves if they saw how tyrannical Trump is.” The question is whether these last-minute appeals will do anything.

“I just watch Fox News,” says Michael Snipes, 71, as he walks with his wife outside a polling station in Charleston, South Carolina's largest city, which has been open for voting all week. Early voting. “Of course I voted for Trump,” he says proudly. She said more cautiously: “Hailey.”

Remarkably, Haley's opponents in South Carolina are also praising her position as governor. They don't see her as a boss. “It's been very good for my job as mayor,” said Snipes, who worked in construction. The activism that Healey succeeded in attracting as governor did him no harm. However, he does not vote for her. “Because it's a Renault Snipes says. This abbreviation means Republican in name only Trump also calls traditional Republicans, a devastating description of his supporters.

Although Haley's views do not differ greatly from those of conservative presidential candidates in the pre-Trump era, she is still not considered left-wing among current Republicans.

Independent filter

There is a strong possibility that Nikki Haley will lose the Republican nomination to Donald Trump. Her supporters in South Carolina hope she will continue as an independent candidate. The fact that she is bidding farewell to her party does not seem to bother her voters much. “I don't see it as betrayal,” Melissa Gaines says. “The Republican Party is not what it used to be.”

There's also a chance that No Labels, a political organization made up of Democrats and Republicans, could field a presidential candidate in March. The name you hear most: Nikki Haley. Her campaign team has consistently said she does not support that, but that may change after losses in South Carolina and other states.

“Can you imagine a country where you don't see so much hatred, division and chaos around you?” Haley asks her audience at Jarir. It strategically brings together Donald Trump and Biden. Haley, who creates a youthful and energetic impression, likes to point out to voters that America is not looking for a fight between two people over the age of 70. She is daring to attack Donald Trump with increasing force, and personally as well.

“Trump is a bully,” she said a day later, at a subsequent campaign rally. “Well, I've been taking on bullies all my life. They don't scare me, they just motivate me. And I've never met a bully I couldn't deal with!”